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Chicken Rearing

When choosing your chicks, pick ones that are alert and energetic. Any that are shivery or limp may be unwell. Happy and healthy chicks require food and water, a good temperature and good housing with a clean living area.

Always order more than one chick. Chicks like to huddle to keep warm and are very social. Ordering more than one will also cover you if there are any mishaps.

Basic rearing needs require:

  • 1 x 10kg bag of chicken crumble
  • Chick feeder
  • Water container
  • Cage/box/container
  • Wood shavings or shredded paper
  • Heat lamp

Most of these products are available at your local North Canterbury Vets clinic.

Setting up the home

The chicks first home will be the brooder. A brooder can be as simple as a large cardboard box, or large container. It should have high and solid sides so the chicks cannot jump out and to prevent drafts. It should be easy to clean and have enough room for the chicks to move around. You will need to lay litter of some sort around the bottom. Shredded paper or wood shavings (not dust) are perfect for this. Change the litter as soon as it is wet to avoid the chicks catching a chill. Damp, warm areas are also perfect condition for diseases such as coccidiosis.


You will need to purchase a heat lamp to achieve temperatures of 32-38 degrees Celsius. Your chick’s behaviour will help to show if the temperature is right. It’s is good to have the area that is warm and a cooler area that they can move around in.

Water and Food

Feed young chicks and birds chick crumb or starter. This is formulated for young birds and can be fed until they are 18 weeks old. Chick crumbs should always be available and kept in a shallow dish or bowl. No other feed is necessary at this stage and greens should not be fed as this can cause diarrhea.

Ensure there is always fresh clean water available to your chicks. Buy one that prevents them from climbing in and getting damp.

Chick Health

Chick droppings will stick to their bottoms and block it up causing infections. Wipe with a warm wet paper towel to prevent this. Chicks will need to be wormed around 16 weeks of age. If your chickens are losing feathers, scratching or looking scaly they may have lice or mites.

Growing up

At 1-2 weeks, your chicks may start to learn to fly. Place chicken wire over the brooder to prevent them getting out and flying into the hot lamp. When your chicks get to around 5-8 weeks old they can start spending time outside (if it’s warm). Make sure they have a warm secure hutch or coop. One that has a warm hiding area and a spot where they can enjoy the sun is perfect! They will also appreciate somewhere to jump on and roost.

Contact North Canterbury Vets if you have any concern over your chicken’s health. We are happy to give advice over the phone as to whether an animal requires treatment.


Reproduced with permission thanks to Franklin Vets, Papakura

Our Clinics & Hours

North Canterbury Veterinary Clinics operates four clinics throughout the Hurunui region.